Friday, February 14, 2014

Baseball lifer, former Phillies manager Fregosi dies


Jim Fregosi, who carved out a career in baseball spanning more than five decades, including a memorable stint as Phillies skipper, and who most recently served as a scout for the Atlanta Braves, passed away early Friday morning.

"He passed away at 2:36 a.m. ET," Jim Fregosi Jr., the oldest son of the 71- year-old Fregosi, said to MLB.com. "Went in peace with no pain."

Fregosi had been taken off life support systems a little more than 12 hours earlier after suffering a stroke while on a cruise ship headed from Grand Cayman to Cozumel, Mexico with other MLB alumni earlier in the week. The ship returned to Grand Cayman, and Fregosi later was taken to a hospital in Miami.

A native of San Francisco, Fregosi was signed as a free agent by the Red Sox in 1960, but made his MLB debut for the expansion Angels the following season.

Over an 18-year career, he hit .265 and collected 151 home runs, 264 doubles and 706 RBI in 1,902 games for the Angels, Mets, Rangers and Pirates. Fregosi was notably shipped from southern California to Queens for Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan in the 1971 offseason.

The six-time All-Star moved into the dugout in 1978, and racked up more than 2,000 games as manager for the Angels (1978-81), White Sox (1986-88), Phillies (1991-96) and Blue Jays (1999-2000).

"Everyone in the Phillies organization is deeply saddened about the news of Jim's passing," Phillies president David Montgomery said in a statement. "We, and so many others in the game, have lost a dear friend. He'll be remembered for his vibrant personality, wisdom and love of the game. Our deepest sympathy is extended to his widow, Joni, daughters Nikki, Lexy and Jennifer and sons Robert and Jim."

Fregosi won division titles in 1979 with the Angels and in 1993 with Philadelphia, reaching the 
World Series for the only time with the Phils in a six-game loss to Toronto.

He was hired as a broadcaster for the club prior to the 1991 season, but was called back down to the dugout just 13 games into the year after Nick Leyva's club limped out to a 4-9 record. During his first season at the helm, Fregosi helped lead the Phillies to a club-record 13-game win streak in late July and early August which pulled them from the basement to the NL East into the middle of the pack. 

The following season was marred by pitching problems ad injuries to key personnel, but the Phillies led the entire National League in run productions despite a last-place finish. That set up the memorable '93 season, where the club defied experts and led the division almost wire-to-wire, won 97 games and toppled the favored Braves to win the NL pennant. 

Fregosi served three more contentious seasons as manager, all of which were losing campaigns. The '95 squad bolted out to a sizeable lead over Atlanta but faded in Summer and fell back to third. The '96 team again finished last despite free agent signings of Benito Santiago and Todd Zeile.  

"These last couple days have been very difficult for the Phillies organization, the Phillies family and me on a personal basis," Phils GM Ruben Amaro said. "Jimmy is a very good friend. ... Baseball lost a great person and a great baseball man today. Prayers go out to the family and Jimmy’s many, many friends. Not many personalities like Jim Fregosi Sr. I’m indebted to him for a number of reasons, personally. Jimmy gave me an opportunity to come back and play here in Philly. ... He’s a special person. He’ll always be in our hearts."
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